Reprinted with the kind permission of Jennifer Crystal and Tick-Borne Disease Alliance. To read the original article, click here.
The time has once again come for New Year’s resolutions. Social media is full of declarations of resolve: to eat healthier, to go to the gym, to spend less time on the very platforms where people are posting these promises. These types of resolutions closely follow one Webster’s definition of the word, which is “a thing determined upon; decision as to future action.”
This particular definition of resolution hasn’t sat well with me since I began my journey with tick-borne illness. I’ve written in the past that a Lymie can’t simply resolve to get well, the way one might resolve to stop drinking coffee; will-power and determination are not enough to combat a bacterial infection. A good attitude certainly helps, but it isn’t the solution to our physical problems.
That word “solution”, however, deserves some attention in the context of New Year’s resolutions. My writing students will tell you that I love to break down words to determine alternate or intrinsic meanings. To “revise” an essay is to re-vision it, to look at it and try to “represent” it—re-present it—in a different way. The word “essay” itself comes from the French “essayer,” to try. And then there’s my personal favorite: “atonement”. This word used to signal fear for me—I felt like if I didn’t atone for my sins, all manner of bad things would happen. Then a friend pointed out that the word breaks down to at-one-ment, and its meaning suddenly shifted to one of personal peace and forgiveness.
To re-vision the word “resolution”, we need only look to its first definition in Webster’s, above the one previously quoted: “the act or result of resolving something.” Instead of focusing on determination or resolve, this definition focuses on the action of solving a problem. “Re” suggests solving that problem in a new way.
This is a definition Lymies can get behind, because our medical journeys are full of re-solutions. Since there is no set protocol for treating tick-borne illness—nor is there a set response to the various protocols out there—doctors are always tweaking individual medications and doses. A patient doing well on one antibiotic might suddenly hit a plateau; the original solution stops working, so the patient and doctor must try to re-solve the issue with a new antibiotic.
The answer should never be for the patient to resolve to make the original solution work. There are people out there—some doctors unfortunately included—who might say something like, “You just need to have more faith in the medicine” or “You just need to be more determined to get well, and then the medicine will work.” But a good doctor will see when a medication is failing a patient, and will come up with a better solution.
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Patients can play a role in re-solving their ailments, too. While we can’t simply resolve to get better, we can look at ways we can help ourselves reach that goal. We can’t reach inside our bodies and pull out all the spirochetes, but we can be sure to follow doctors’ orders and take our medications as prescribed. We can keep a log of our daily symptoms, so that we can better report whether a protocol is working. We can use cognitive behavioral therapy to change any patterns that are negatively impacting our health.
We can, effectively, resolve to come up with the best solutions for ourselves, which allows us to get behind both definitions of “resolution”.
Re-solutions are all about finding new perspective. This can be tough for people whose daily perspective is four bedroom walls and seemingly endless suffering. The idea that they will ever get better might seem impossible. But remember, within the word “impossible” is I’m possible.
Jennifer Crystal is a writer, educator and patient advocate in Boston. She earned her M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Emerson College, where she was a Dean’s Fellow, and her B.A. in English and French from Middlebury College. She also completed a summer of study at the Bread Loaf School of English. Her first book, Et Voilà: One Traveler’s Journey from Foreigner to Francophile, was published by Belfort and Bastion in 2014. She is working on her second book, a memoir about living with chronic tick-borne diseases.
This past January, Jennifer taught a Winter Term course called “Healing Through Writing” at her alma mater, Middlebury College. She now teaches creative writing seminars at Grub Street in Boston.
Jennifer writes a syndicated blog for lymedisease.org and tbdalliance.org, which has received mention in The New Yorker, CQ Researcher and weatherchannel.com. She has been interviewed by cbsnews.com, and was also interviewed by award-winning health writer Laurie Edwards for her book In the Kingdom of the Sick; Jennifer’s story leads chapter seven of that book, and was given mention in a Wall Street Journal review. Jennifer received a grant from the Emerson Enhancement Fund to attend the September 2014 Workshop in Narrative Medicine at Columbia University Medical Center. She was a finalist for the 2012 Writers’ Room of Boston Emerging Writer Fellowship and is also a member of Neuwrite Boston.
Jennifer’s work has appeared in The Boston Globe, (T)here: Musings on Returnings (Martlet & Mare 2014), wbur.org, Spry Literary Journal, Transitions Abroad, Abroad View, Middlebury Magazine, and Wilton Magazine. Please click on the link to the left for a list of all of Jennifer’s publications.
Jennifer enjoys skiing, boating, volunteering at Spaulding Rehabilitation Center’s Adaptive Sports Program, spending time with friends, and eating chocolate.
Contact Jennifer at email@example.com.